It was important to get that tree

Some of our most cherished memories involve Christmas. Most of those memories involve family members.

Ironically, one of the most memorable holidays in my life was in the late 1980s when I was far away across an ocean from any family members.

Working overseas at The International Herald Tribune in Paris, France, it was the first, and only, Christmas without family around. I moved my small family to Paris in the spring to work at the newspaper after winning a fellowship.

We didn’t have any decorations, very little money for gifts, and at the time, no real friends to share the holiday with.

But that didn’t deter my daughter, Beth, from making her own decorations for a Christmas tree from scraps of paper and little toys she collected in candy called Kinders. Prospects for a tree did not look good. We had no car to haul one and the idea of toting one on the Paris Metro scared me.

But, I did find a tree nearby at a flower shop. The cost was alarming, about $60, and it would require that I haul the tree with its dirtball wrapped in burlap about two city blocks.

You know that fathers will do anything for their daughters, so I hauled the heavy tree the two blocks to our apartment only to discover that it would not fit in the tiny elevator. There was no way I could haul that tree up six flights of stairs.
Using all my planning skills, I devised a way to place the tree in the elevator and stand above it with my legs anchored to the side of the elevator like Spiderman. It worked, and I was able to get the tree, and myself, to our apartment.

My daughter was excited to have the little tree and her decorations looked beautiful on it. Void of lights it was still one of the most beautiful Christmas trees I have ever seen.

We received some “care” packages from home as our Christmas gifts and were happy to get them. We also took in the sights and lights of Paris, a beautiful city around Christmas.

The day after Christmas we left for Germany to spend the holiday with a former fellow-worker who was stationed there with her husband. Getting to go to an American PX, having a real American breakfast and even crossing Checkpoint Charlie into East Germany, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, combined to make that Christmas season one to remember forever.

Above everything else, we gained a better understanding of how important family is.


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